So. The Clippers. Through some cruel twist of fate I ended up with this recap, and coming into the game I faced a huge problem: I knew just about nothing about the Clippers. Last night's was only the second game of the season I watched that featured the mighty Clippers - I usually avoid teams that bad like a plague (the first being of course the one we won on Mason's 3 earlier this season).
But duty is duty, so I put on my fancy hat and went all the way to Clips Nation. To compare that site to PTR is an insult - to Clips Nation. It's also part of the SB Nation, and while the regular crew is much smaller and more laconic than us, their main writer ClipperSteve has more basketball IQ in his right pinky finger than all of us put together. He graced us with his presence during the game thread, and he was insightful, respectful and just all-around nice. Too bad he didn't let me post my dunking cheerleader pics on his site. (I hate you.)
In short, anything remotely insightful about the Clippers has been blatantly stolen from ClipperSteve - and as for the rest, I'll just wing it in true PTR fashion. Now play some real guitar music (SRV schmSRV), and let's kick this into high gear:
First of all, please allow me to rant a bit about what's probably the Clipper's biggest mistake this season: Baron Davis. Don't get me wrong, I think that Davis -when he's on- is a very fun player to watch, and a crowd pleaser. But as an unrepentant chucker with a flair for passing, he's probably not what the doctor ordered for the mediocre Clippers squad. If the Clippers were looking for a glue guy to lead this team right into the thick of the 9 West giants. they failed. They couldn't know that Davis was going to forget how to shoot this season, though, so it's not completely their fault. (They should've asked kevjumba's opinion before going through with it.)
What mystifies me is why Baron left Golden State. I know that he loves the filmmaking business, and plans to be a hotshot producer at some point. But c'mon, Baron! That historic slaying of the unwashed Mavericks propelled you back into big-name fame. You were rescued from obscurity because you played for Mr. Nelson, and his style fit with yours perfectly. Why ruin such a perfect match? You might not have won a ring, but you could've had fun losing. (Hell, it goes both ways: Stephen Jackson misses him so much that he deludes himself into believing Davis wants to come back. But Baron will sink with the ship.)
From floor general to generic douchy Angelino
(The drawing was made by the talented Joel Kimmel - he draws regularly for SLAM. Check out his site.)
So coming into the game, the Clipper were without Baron (bruised tailbone), Zach Randolph (knee injury), Chris Kaman (sore foot), Mike Taylor (something or other) and Ricky Davis, who was suspended because he's a big pothead. That left the Clippers with 2 players and 6 scrubs, one of whom was Fred Jones, on a 10-day contract and so down on the NBA hierarchy that Fox sports didn't even have his mugshot. Now, I'm no Hollinger, but at least I can recognize most of the important players in this league when I see them - well, watching their faces in ATS's preview, I honestly couldn't tell who was who.
So today, for the first time in PTR, I'm breaking out the amazing new game called Match The Mugshot! Be excited. I played already, but I'm afraid I couldn't complete it. Can you do better?
Second guy from the bottom hates the photographer
I guess it's time to talk about the game. It started as Spurs games usually do this season: we sucked. We all knew that we weren't going to win this one on the first quarter because of the Spurs' annoying tendency of playing down to the opponent's level, and they didn't disappoint.
Mason wasn't shooting as well as he could, but he wasn't the problem. Finley was also chucking bricks, but he wasn't the problem. Tony wasn't sharing the ball well and tried too hard to go for the difficult layup, but he wasn't to blame, either. Bonner played 6 minutes and was inexplicably benched.
Now, there're two stories for this game: ATS's and mine. ATS basically blames Manu for global warming, and the ineffective ball movement during the first two quarters. Me, I think Duncan is the one that screwed the pooch, although his teammates sure didn't help. Now, since I'm writing this recap I'm going to completely ignore ATS's somewhat valid points and focus on my skewed view of reality. If you want to read what he has to say about this, check the game thread and look for "fuck".
"Hahah, that ATS guy sure is funny! ...Why's my face so freaking fat??"
The Clippers insisted on using a zone defense the entire game. I'm not sure what the reasoning behind that is - ClipperSteve suggests that with only 8 active players they were trying to keep them out of foul trouble. I guess that's as reasonable an explanation as any, but they are obviously not completely used to playing a zone D. There were a number of possession in which a Clipper mistakenly tried to help a teammate leaving his man open at the wrong spot - I remember Tony scoring an easy layup from a pass from Timmy in a situation like that one.
In that context Manu tried to do too much at times, and had a couple of silly TOs we could've done without. He had 4 steals in the first half, but two of those were wasted by him in painful fashion. He had an acrobatic layup that had me jumping up from my chair and screaming at my monitor in a way that had my granma looking at me funny for half an hour, and a couple of sweet high-rish passes that ATS probably hated.
Manu counting the number of attendees while he watches the ball using the Third Eye Bald Spot
Timmy, on the other hand, was the focus on both the offense and the deffense. Playing with only one big man on court, he was constantly double-teamed and did a fine job of passing the ball at times. His shot was horrifyingly off, though, and was about 1-1000 at the half. True data. What really bothered me, though, is the number of easy layups that they got against us. Our interior D was fundamentally flawed, and we suffered for it. With 4 midgets skying for rebounds in a lackadaisical manner and Timmy not particularly effective, we also lost the rebounding battle worse than SiMA is losing the battle for SurferGirl's love. (I'm rooting for you, you conservative lug!)
If there's a team against which the zone shouldn't work, that's the Spurs: we're the best at shooting the 3, Manu and Tony can penetrate against just about any defender, and Timmy is a great passer. But in that first half it worked: We were losing by 9 at one point in the second quarter, and finished the half -1.
In the second half, though, the zone D didn't work.
You'd think Camby would be desensitized to losing by now...
Mason heated up and started knocking short, Finley followed suit, Tony scored a few nice layups and Manu started clicking and being Manu. But most of all, Pop woke up and put Bonner in: if there's a game that called for some Bonnertime, this was it. He can shoot the 3 as well as anyone else in the league right now, and from time to time he can rebound, too. It was all too much for the depleted Clippers, and they folded like ATS when I called him on his Manu-bashing.
Most of the second half consisted of our scrubs beating their scrubs (that would be their starters), at it got so bad that we had a JV sighting. It's a good thing that out Clippers fans friends didn't know just how insulting that is. At least we had two highlights from boy wonder Hill to enjoy, and you shouldn't miss them. (Can we get him on the dunking contest? I know! He should wear a Batman suit! That'd be a real crowd pleaser.)
Hey, George, I don't think throwing the ball down directly into the hoop is legal...
That's it: a boring, long-winded recap for a boring game. Even when the Spurs were losing I wasn't too worried, because the Clippers "second" team was fundamentally flawed. And because we had Hill.
For us there're not many positives: we continue to shoot well and we nearly always win the games that we're supposed to win. For the Clippers, they are in a bad situation: not bad enough that the lottery is likely to help them, not good enough to make the playoffs. At least rookie Eric Gordon can sure shoot, and could grow into a consistent NBA scorer. And Skinner has a nice beard going on. And Clipper Darrel wears a snappy suit.
Just a bit of analysis before I leave: Timothy Varner was arguing the other day over at 48 Minutes of Hell (probably the best Spurs blog for serious analysis) that Duncan's increase of outside shots and decrease of post-up play is built by design by Pop, ex profeso to preserve Timmy's body for the offseason. It doesn't only sound like something Pop would do, it also makes sense. Now, do you think the same's going on with Manu? He's slowly penetrating more and more each game - I think I counted four strong drives to the basket in the 25 plus minutes he played against the Clippers, and he had good results after that botched first layup. But considering his ankle, could there be a request from Pop to favor his outside shot until he feels he's at 120%, or even till the playoffs? I might be reaching, but it also seems like the intelligent thing to do.
Anyway, go read Timothy's article. Otstanding.
OUR 3 STARS:
3rd - Parker. Only because he was our high scorer, because I honestly wasn't too enthused with his game. Manu could've also been a serviceable 3rd star, or Bonner.
2nd - Hill. His stats don't seem like much, but he just _looks great_ when he plays. His dunk was the highlight of the game, and he's got so much Potential that every game is an adventure. I think he's even cooler than freezebubbles!
1st - Mason. What else can you say about this guy? He's living proof that out FO still has it, and somewhere Buford and Pop are laughing at the doubters. Day in and day out RoMaJu is coming through for us, and we're a better team for it.
NEXT: The friggin' Magic. They're playing at a high level, as evidence by their shaming blowout against the Hawks last night, and they were the one team that dominated us from the get go this season. Hopefully we can do a better job this time around.
fuck Manu you sorry piece of shit. Quit trying to do something special and just make the routine play.
AusTechSpur, January 2009.